I’m not sure if this is the case with anyone else, but in the course of writing yesterday’s post about 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina I got to thinking: I have basically no recollection at all of the time when Jay-Z’s the Blueprint was released. Because I was a junior in college at the time, I almost certainly had a copy of it a while before it was released, but it must have never worked its way into my rotation.
Which would seem odd when you consider that a) the Blueprint hit stores the same day the twin towers fell, b) it was released amid Jay’s epic beef with Nas’ – easily the biggest rap beef of this decade so far, and c) it was immediately hailed by numerous prominent critics as one of the best rap albums evar. I wonder though if the Blueprint is really deserving of the level of hype it received at the time.
A few months ago, during the brouhaha surrounding Jay-Z’s big Reasonable Doubt anniversary show, I published my own list of Jay-Z’s albums in order from best to worst, in response to Noz’s suggestion that Vol. 3: A New Level of Pandering – arguably Jay’s worst album – was the best Jay-Z album evar. As I recall, I put the Blueprint about halfway down the list, after Reasonable Doubt and Vols. 1 and 2, but ahead of crap like Vol. 3 and Blueprint 2: The Gift that’s a Curse.
The truth of the matter is that I tuned out after Hard Knock Life and could less in which order you ‘bags consider the last five or so Jay-Z albums. Going back over my list, the Blueprint could very well be better than the Dynasty, but it wouldn’t be worth my time digging up both copies to find out. At any rate, they’re probably a lot more similar than many of you ‘bags would like to think. Indeed I think the the circumstances surrouding the Blueprint distinguish that album more so than the actual music itself.
It could be the case that I never bought into the whole “wanton sampling = mark of a true genius” school of thought, which seems to have begun right around the time the Blueprint was released. For what it’s worth, songs like “Izzo” and “the Takeover” might actually be Kanye West’s best work, but’s it’s not like that’s really saying a whole lot. On the other hand, I find some of Just Blaze’s contributions to the album rather grating and not nearly on the level of his best stuff.
And I think it’s worth noting that the Blueprint, for being a so-called classic album, also has its share of straight up shit sandwiches. Nobody liked that Trackmasters song at the time, and I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Jay never worked with them again. I know some people enjoyed that Eminen song, but then you can find people on the Internets that like pretty much anything. And whatever that mess that Timbaland contributed was can only be viewed in retrospect as the original “SexyBack.”
That said, a case could be made for the Blueprint being a classic on the basis of it being released on 9/11 and in the midst of Jay’s historic battle with Nas, but I’m not sure if I’m buying that either. Like I said before, it’s odd to think how much of that time I remember on a personal level and how little of it involves listening to the Blueprint. For me at least, the Blueprint was definitely not the sound of the fall of 2001. (Gold, anyone?)
And in retrospect, the Jay and Nas beef ended up being pretty damn fruity, if you ask me, and a harbinger of so many of the other silly New York rap beefs that have emerged in its wake. In fact, you could argue that New York hip-hop would be that much better today if none of that ever happened.